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Obama to Lead UN Security Council Summit Next Month


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will lead a United Nations Security Council Summit regarding foreign terrorism next month.  

The topic of the meeting is expected to be, "the acute threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters." Following the killing of American journalist James Foley by a self-proclaimed member of ISIS, video of which was posted online Tuesday, that topic is particularly timely.

The meeting, scheduled for the week of Sept. 22, will be a Head of Government-level meeting, the first since 2009. Obama hosted that meeting as well, focusing largely on the topic of non-proliferation.

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Attorney General Eric Holder in Ferguson Recalls Being 'Angry' After Police Encounters


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- Attorney General Eric Holder went to the strife torn town of Ferguson on Wednesday where he met with the family of slain teenager Michael Brown and talked about his own run-ins with police that left him "angry and upset."

The nation’s top law enforcement official, who is the first African-American named to the post, said he hoped his presence and interest in the case would have a, “calming influence on the area.”

Ferguson has been roiled by angry protests, rock and bottle throwing and some looting since Brown, 18, was shot and killed by Police Officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. Brown was African-American and Wilson is white.

Holder told people in Ferguson that he understood their mistrust of police.

“I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man,” Holder said. “I've confronted this myself.”

The AG recalled being stopped by police on the way to a movie in Georgetown, a well-to-do suburb of Washington, DC.

“Police car comes driving up, flashes his lights, yells, 'Where you going? Hold it,’” Holder told residents. “Now my cousin started mouthing off. I'm like, 'This is not where we want to go. Keep quiet.'”

“At the time that [the police officer] stopped me, I was a federal prosecutor. I wasn't a kid. I was a federal prosecutor. I worked at the United States Department of Justice,” he said. Holder said the encounter left him “angry and upset.”

The attorney general also described having his car searched during routine traffic stops on the New Jersey Turnpike.

“I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was,” he said.

Holder, who also met with local FBI agents and justice department personnel, promised a “thorough” federal investigation.

“My hope is that will give people some degree of confidence,” he said.

The AG congratulated Missouri Highway Police Capt. Ron Johnson, who was called in to take charge of policing in Ferguson.

“My man, you are the man,” Holder told Johnson. “You’re making a real difference.”

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US Military Launched Secret Rescue Operation for James Foley, Other Americans


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. special operations forces early this summer launched a secret, major rescue operation in Syria to save James Foley and a number of Americans held by the extremist group ISIS, but the mission failed because the hostages weren’t there, senior administration officials told ABC News Wednesday.

President Obama authorized the “substantial and complex” rescue operation after the officials said a “broad collection of intelligence” led the U.S. to believe the hostages were being held in a specific location in the embattled Middle Eastern nation.

When “several dozen” U.S. special operation members landed in Syria, however, they were met with gunfire and “while on site, it became apparent the hostages were not there,” one of the officials said.

The special operators engaged in a firefight in which ISIS suffered “a good number” casualties, the official said, while the American forces suffered only a single minor injury. The American forces were able to get back on helicopters and escape.

“Intelligence is not a perfect science,” the senior official said. As to how the intelligence failed and why the hostages were not there, the official said, “The truth is, we don’t know. And that’s the truth. When we got there, they weren’t there. We don’t know why that is.”

Much about the daring mission itself remains a secret -- officials said they did not want to reveal too much about the rescue attempt for fear of spoiling future efforts.

“It was conducted, but was not ultimately successful,” a senior U.S. official told ABC News.

The operation was what senior government officials described as a major undertaking -- involving special operations forces from multiple branches of the military, helicopters, fixed-wing airplanes, and surveillance aircraft.

A video showing the brutal murder of James Foley apparently at the hands of an ISIS fighter appeared online Tuesday.

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Kerry Condemns Murder of James Foley, Says ISIS Must Be Destroyed


Credit: US Department of State(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the murder of American James Foley at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, video of which was posted online Tuesday, heartbreaking and unfair.

In a statement released Wednesday, Kerry recalled that in 2012, Foley was captured while on assignment in Syria. Kerry was a senator at that time and had the opportunity to meet Foley's family. "The sheer unfairness and unlikely odds that this young journalist would again find himself in captivity in another conflict was almost unimaginable," Kerry said.

"There is evil in this world," Kerry said in light of Tuesday's video, "and we all have come face to face with it once again." Also on Wednesday, Kerry tweeted strong words for ISIS.

 

ISIL must be destroyed/will be crushed.

— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) August 20, 2014



"The world must know that the United States of America will never back down in the face of such evil," Kerry said in a statement. "[ISIS] and the wickedness it represents must be destroyed, and those responsible for this heinous, vicious atrocity will be held accountable."

 

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Supreme Court Blocks Virginia Gay Marriage, for Now


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court on Wednesday blocked same-sex marriages from going forward in Virginia, putting on hold a lower court ruling from last month that struck down the state’s strict ban on gay marriage.

The action by the high court means that gay marriages, which were set to begin Thursday, will not go forward while supporters of the state ban appeal the issue to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court acted on an application filed by Michele B. McQuigg, a state clerk who had petitioned for a stay pending appeal.

In an one-page order, with no noted dissents, the Supreme Court granted the request.

Here is the text of the order:

ORDER IN PENDING CASE 14A196 MCQUIGG, MICHELE V. BOSTIC, TIMOTHY B., ET AL. The application for stay presented to The Chief Justice and by him referred to the Court is granted, and the issuance of the mandate of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in case No. 14-1167, is stayed pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari. Should the petition for a writ of certiorari be denied, this stay shall terminate automatically. In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the stay shall terminate upon the sending down of the judgment of this Court.

While Mark R. Herring, Virginia’s attorney general, has argued that the state ban is unconstitutional, he urged the Supreme Court to grant the stay. In court briefs, Herring said it was “painful to keep Virginia’s same-sex couples and their children waiting,” but that the “balance of hardships” favored a stay.

Herring expressed concern that if gay marriages were allowed to go forward and then the Supreme Court were to ultimately uphold Virginia’s ban, hundreds or thousands of marriages would be “rendered doubtful.”

“Not only might their marriages have to be unwound,” Herring argued, “but all of the legal relationships and transactions of third parties who pass through their orbit would have to be untangled.”

The court granted a similar request regarding Utah’s ban in January.

So far this year, two federal appeals courts have struck state bans on gay marriage.

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World 'Appalled' by James Foley Beheading, Obama Says


ABC News(EDGARTOWN, Mass.) -- ISIS' slaughter of American journalist James Foley was "brutal," President Obama said Wednesday.

“The entire world is appalled,” the president said in Martha’s Vineyard. “No just God would stand for what they did yesterday or every single day … People like this ultimately fail. They fail because the future’s won by those who build and not destroy. The world is shaped by people like Jim Foley.”

The terrorist group beheaded Foley in a grisly video posted online Tuesday evening. The U.S. intelligence community verified the video’s authenticity Wednesday morning.

According to one senior U.S. official, ISIS had recently threatened to kill Foley to avenge airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq, and the White House was aware of the threat prior to the posting of the video.

“A group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century,” Obama said.

The president called Foley’s parents on Wednesday to offer his condolences. John and Diane Foley eulogized their son during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

“He was a courageous, fearless journalist,” Diane Foley said. “Jimmy had a big heart. ... That’s what we shared with President Obama."

“We just pray that Jim’s death can bring our country together in a stronger way in the values that Jim holds dear,” she said, before correcting herself to “held dear.”

“We beg compassion and mercy” for the other journalists held by ISIS, John Foley said. “There’s no reason for this slaughter.”

The video released Tuesday shows an ISIS militant wearing a black face mask addressing the president directly.

“Any attempt by you, Obama, to deny the Muslims their right to live in safety under the Islamic caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people,” he says.

Foley, clad in an orange jumpsuit, kneels next to the militant, who is clutching a knife.

“I wish I had more time. I wish I could have the hope of freedom of seeing my family once again, but that ship has sailed,” Foley says before his on-camera execution.

After the gruesome beheading of Foley, the ISIS militant threatens the life of another American hostage -- Steven Sotloff, who went missing in August.

Though he did not mention Sotloff specifically, Obama on Wednesday promised that, “the United States of America will continue to do what they must do to protect our people.”

“We will be vigilant. We will be relentless,” he added.

Foley was kidnapped by ISIS in 2012 while on assignment in Syria. Prior to his execution, U.S. officials say they used Turkish, Russian and Czech intermediaries to advocate for his release.

Earlier on Wednesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron called the beheading “shocking and depraved.”

British officials said it was “apparent” that the ISIS militant in the video was from the United Kingdom and say they’re working to identify the individual.

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Rick Perry Pleads Not Guilty to Felony Charges


Stewart F. House/Getty Images(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to two felony charges on which he was indicted relating to a 2013 veto threat.

Perry’s attorneys entered the not guilty plea Wednesday morning and waived his formal arraignment scheduled for Friday morning.

“The waiver of arraignment contains the plea of not guilty,” David Botsford, an attorney for Perry, said.

Perry turned himself in to authorities Tuesday at the Travis County Courthouse, getting his fingerprints taken and smiling for a mug shot.

The two felony counts -- abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official -- originate from Perry’s threat to veto $7.5 million in funding for Texas’ public integrity unit after District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign following a 2013 DWI conviction.

Perry will travel to Washington, D.C., Thursday for a speech on the border crisis before heading to New Hampshire, where he has events scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

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BushÂ’s Birthday Gift to Clinton a Bucket of Cold Water?


Tom Pennington/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- When former first daughter Jenna Bush Hager, pro golfer Rory McIlroy, San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, and philanthropist Woody Johnson nominated President George W. Bush for the ice bucket challenge to strike out ALS, the former president wasn’t sure that pouring a pail of freezing water on his head – even in the name of raising awareness for a fatal disease – was properly dignified.

“To you all who have challenged me: I do not think it’s presidential for me to be splashed with ice water, so I’m simply going to write you a check,” President Bush says in a video posted to his Facebook page Wednesday.

Just when you’re starting to fear Bush’s video will be even more boring than a ceremonial ribbon cutting, former first lady Laura Bush appears with a bucket.

Grinning, she unceremoniously dumps its contents on the former commander-in-chief’s head.

“That check is from me,” she says, patting her hair. “I didn’t want to ruin my hairstyle.”

A sopping-wet George W. then nominates his presidential predecessor, Bill Clinton.

“Yesterday was Bill’s birthday and my gift to Bill is a bucket of cold water,” Bush deadpans.



President Bush is the first U.S. president to take the ice bucket challenge, but he’s not necessarily the first who has been nominated. President John F. Kennedy’s sister-in-law, Ethel Kennedy, who’s summering near President Obama’s vacation home, nominated President Obama last week (and so did Justin Bieber).

And Conan O’Brien nominated President Jimmy Carter last Thursday.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, also took the ice bucket challenge in a video posted Wednesday morning. He nominated Texas state Sen. Konni Burton, conservative talk show host Sean Hannity, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, and pastor Ed Young.

Post by Ted Cruz.

ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neuromuscular disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. To learn more, visit the ALS Association.

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White House Knew of Recent ISIS Threat to Kill US Journalist


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- ISIS had recently threatened to kill U.S. journalist James Foley to avenge airstrikes the United States has conducted in Iraq, a senior U.S. official told ABC News.

The White House had been aware of the threat prior to the release of a video Tuesday night that appears to show the beheading of Foley and warns that militants will carry out a similar act against U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff, who went missing in August, the official said.

President Obama was briefed on the video aboard Air Force One Tuesday night as he returned to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, from Washington to resume his August vacation. The White House said the intelligence community is working to authenticate the gruesome video that allegedly shows Foley’s beheading.

“If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends,” Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said.

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POLL: Support for US Air Strikes in Iraq Jumps


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After splitting evenly two months ago, a majority of Americans now support U.S. air strikes in Iraq – but without additional credit to Barack Obama for ordering them.

Support for the military action against Sunni insurgents in Iraq is up by 9 percentage points since June, from 45 to 54 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, while opposition is down by 7 points, to 39 percent. Yet views on Obama’s handling of the situation are essentially unchanged – 42 percent approve, while 51 percent disapprove.

On a third question, the public divides on providing arms and ammunition to the Kurdish military forces who are opposing the insurgents, with 45 percent in favor, 49 percent opposed.

See PDF with full results and charts here.

The air strikes, which began nearly two weeks ago, represent the most significant U.S. military operations in Iraq since the withdrawal of the last ground troops in late 2011. Interviews for this survey, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, were completed before the announcement that U.S. air strikes had assisted Iraqi and Kurdish forces in recapturing the Mosul Dam, a major strategic objective.

An increase in support for U.S. military action occurred among Democrats and political independents – up by 10 and 8 points, respectively, while remaining largely stable and higher among Republicans. Similarly, support has increased by 8 to 12 points among liberals, moderates and those who say they’re “somewhat” conservative, while holding steady among strong conservatives.

Partisanship and ideology also continue to play a major role in ratings of Obama’s performance on the issue. Two-thirds of Democrats and 63 percent of liberals approve of the president’s handling of the situation, falling among political independents and moderates (to 37 and 44 percent, respectively) and plummeting to a quarter of conservatives and two in 10 Republicans.

What’s changed is the relationship between views on air strikes and Obama’s handling of the situation. For example, in June, among Democrats who opposed air strikes, 74 percent also approved of his work on the issue; today it’s only 56 percent. In effect, the jump in support for air strikes among Democrats is offset by a drop in approval of the president’s handling of the situation among those who continue to oppose the air strikes, leaving his overall approval on the issue unchanged.

The gain in support for military strikes, with no increase in support for Obama’s handling of the situation, also may reflect different bases on which these judgments are made. The U.S. military action has widely been reported as successful. Obama’s work on the issue, though, extends beyond military action to broader strategic objectives, and his success at communicating and achieving them – a more complex judgment, and one whose outcome remains an open question.

Beyond air strikes, it was reported last week that the United States also has provided limited small arms and ammunition to the Kurds. Great Britain and France are reported to be furnishing them with weapons as well. Support for the two approaches is related, though not identical: Two-thirds of those who favor air strikes also support arming the Kurds, while eight in 10 of those who oppose air strikes likewise oppose providing weapons.

Apart from partisanship and ideology, support both for air strikes and for providing arms and ammunition to Kurdish military forces is greater among men, whites, college graduates, older Americans and those who are better off financially, compared with their counterparts. Save for older adults, these same groups saw double-digit increases in support for air strikes since June.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cell phone Aug. 13-17, 2014, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,025 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points. The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y.

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Gov. Rick Perry Booked on Felony Charges with 'Head Held High'


Travis County Sheriff's Office(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Mobbed by cameras and supporters chanting “Perry, Perry, Perry,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry sidled up to a podium outside the courthouse before turning himself in late Tuesday following an indictment filed against him last week for two felony charges.

“I’m here today because I believe in the  rule of law and I’m here today because I did the right thing. I’m going to enter this courthouse with my head held high, knowing that the actions that I took were not only lawful and legal but right,” Perry said to cheers outside the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center in downtown Austin, Texas. ”And if I had to do so, I would veto funding for the public integrity unit again.”

“I’m going to fight this injustice with every fiber of my being. And we will prevail. And we’ll prevail because we’re standing for the rule of law,” he added.

The Texas governor then proceeded inside the courthouse where he was set to be fingerprinted and have his mugshot taken. Perry stood in front of a light blue background as he had his mugshot taken. He took off his glasses and appeared to be smiling ever so slightly, with no teeth showing.


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Following his booking, Perry spoke to reporters again, calling the indictment a “political act.”

“This indictment is fundamentally a political act that seeks to achieve in a courthouse what could not be achieved at the ballot box,” he said.

Perry’s booking comes just four days after he was first indicted on two felony counts – abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official.  The charges originate from Perry threatening to veto $7.5 million in funding for the state’s public integrity unit unless District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resigned following a DWI conviction in 2013.

Perry’s arraignment is currently scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on Friday, the same day he’s scheduled to appear in New Hampshire.

Michael Czin, national press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, said the booking was a “sideshow” for Perry and that he would be held responsible for his actions when he appears in court.

“This may be a sideshow to Rick Perry but no amount of spin can cover up two felony charges. When Rick Perry has his day in court, his case will be decided by the facts, not theatrics,” Czin said. “We look forward to the evidence being presented in court that convinced a jury of the Governor’s peers to indict.”

After being booked, Perry took to his Twitter account to share what he did next.

 

And then, ice cream cone at #Sandy's pic.twitter.com/rDYW6HvoS5

— Rick Perry (@GovernorPerry) August 19, 2014

 

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Hagel Looking into Program Involving Transfer of Equipment to Local Police


US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is taking a deeper look into the longstanding program which allows that Pentagon to transfer excess equipment and weapons to local police given the images coming from Ferguson, Missouri, in recent days.

During a Tuesday briefing, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said that Hagel had "asked for some more information so that he can have a more informed opinion" about the program. Kirby also outlined the equipment the Ferguson Police Department has received since 2007 -- including two Humvees, one generator and one cargo trailer. Other police departments in St. Louis County have received six pistols, 12 rifles, 15 weapon sights, an EOD robot, three helicopters, five Humvees and two night-vision devices.

While the Pentagon does hold spot checks to ensure local police departments keep proper inventory of the equipment received from the Pentagon, they "do not legislate, we don't dictate, we don't - we don't mandate any kind of certain use," Kirby said.

Still, Kirby noted, the Secretary of Defense has the power to rescind donations of equipment given to local police departments, and that not all requests are approved. "We don't push equipment on anyone," Kirby said, "There's a lot of due diligence here. Just because they ask for a helicopter doesn't mean they are going to get a helicopter."

Kirby did note that the program also affects counterdrug and counterterrorism activities in a positive way. "Some of this equipment saves lives," he noted, "Let's be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater."

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Former Obama Adviser David Plouffe Joins Uber


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(NEW YORK) -- Former Obama campaign manager and White House adviser David Plouffe is joining on-demand car service company Uber.

Plouffe joins Uber as senior vice president of policy and strategy in September, tasked with leading a campaign to continue expanding the company's services to new cities and overseas.

Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick announced the hiring of Plouffe on the company's blog. Plouffe, in turn, said that he is "thrilled" to be joining the Uber team, stating his belief that Uber can "spur the creation of hundreds of thousands of small businesses and directly create millions of jobs."

Both Kalanick and Plouffe cited the obstacles in Uber's path, including competition from the taxi industry. Plouffe called the current situation a "monopoly," accusing the taxi industry of wanting to "play the inside game to deny opportunity to those on the outside."

Still, Plouffe said, "Uber has the chance to be a once in a decade if not a once in a generation company."

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Rick Perry to Turn Himself In on Charges He Abused His Power


Stewart F. House/Getty Images(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry will turn himself in Tuesday on charges that he abused his gubernatorial power, his attorneys said.

Perry, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, was indicted by a grand jury on two counts Friday. Prosecutors say he abused the power of his office by trying to force the resignation of a Democratic district attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg, who oversees the state’s public integrity unit.

The Texas governor faces charges of coercion and official oppression for vetoing funding for the state's public integrity unit last summer to force Lehmberg to leave office.

When he turns himself in on Tuesday, Perry is expected to be fingerprinted and have his mugshot taken. He will not be allowed to wear his glasses in the photo due to standard procedures, according to the Travis County Sheriff's Department.

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US Rejects International Criticism of Ferguson Police


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A State Department spokeswoman pushed back against countries like Egypt, Iran and China that have chided U.S. law enforcement for its handling of protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, over the police shooting death of unarmed Michael Brown.

Marie Harf said such countries, which, at best, have mixed records on human rights and free speech, should avoid comparing themselves to the United States.

“We here in the United States will put our record for confronting our problems transparently and honestly and openly up against any other countries in the world,” Harf said. “When we have problems and issues in this country, we deal with them openly and honestly. We think that’s important, and I would encourage the countries you named particularly to do the same thing.”

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday urged authorities to use “restraint” against protesters, mimicking a similarly worded statement released by the White House in July 2013 when the United States advised Egypt to use discretion when dealing with supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

Iran’s top religious figure, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, has posted frequently about Ferguson on his Twitter and Facebook pages in recent days, including a post Sunday that read, “You are not alone in your complaint against the oppressive govt of US; the US has oppressed many nations. #Ferguson.”

And China’s state-run newspaper Xinhua published an op-ed urging the United States to stop criticizing other nations, like China, for its human rights and free speech abuses.

“Obviously, what the United States needs to do is to concentrate on solving its own problems rather than always pointing fingers at others,” it read.

Harf declined to address each country’s critique individually.

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